I have noticed a rather troublesome habit about myself that when I get to the conclusion of a series, I tend to put off reading it because I don’t really want things to end, but this is a problem because of the risk of spoilers. I blasted through books one and two of the rather generically named Swords and Fire series maybe a year ago, and finally not too long ago, I finally have gotten to book three, The Unbound Empire. I knew a little about how things would end up (I mentioned the risk of spoilers already) and there are certain tropes this series has not neglected elsewhere, so why change it here?
Right, so I liked that the heroine had some personality which we got to see grow. Amalia starts having to deal with the realities of being who her mother has raised her to be, namely one of the most powerful individuals in the land, and Amalia naturally has to start out with a rather revolutionary proposal to change the laws that the would allow the restrained mages of her world called Falcons a lot more freedom. As the same time, there’s the outside threat of the evil, or at the very least incredibly twisted Witch Lord Ruven to deal with, and the somewhat related personal struggle between the very interesting love interest and currently courtship partner Witch Lord Kathe and first love Falconer (controller of a Falcon) Marcello.
There’s a lot of wringing of hands and running around, which gets a little tedious, but the interweaving and interrelating of everything works out pretty well since it manages to keep things from getting too dull by combining Amalia’s various problems is different degrees of imminent throughout the novel. While Amalia does get some growth through all of this, not very many others do. We do get to learn more about Kathe, and while he’s got a pretty sexy vibe, if I really think about it, I’m not sure I’d want to be dating a guy who can only really communicate in riddles and games. He is a decent individual though, and he gets credit for trying his best to stay that way despite his position. Marcello also has to face some pretty substantial personal challenges as well which results in some interesting character suggestions for him. Long story short and spoiler free, Ruven captures Marcello and that’s bad for Marcello. Amalia’s Falcon Zaira doesn’t really change a whole lot either but she does seem to be learning to let her guard down just a little bit, so there’s that.
The biggest thing I appreciated was how the sort of love triangle was resolved. Amalia and Marcello both finally admit they like each other in that way, ok Marcello admitted it a while ago, but they both acknowledge that they would have to give up their goals for themselves to be together, and that’s very rarely openly a part of the resolution for this kind of thing. Their decision is pretty clear and on the one hand, it’s the right one in a lot of ways, but it’s also kind of cliché too. Not in a bad way though.
I like the eventually tactic that defeats Ruven, but I don’t get why no one thought of it before, and I’m still not entirely sure it was planned. But it does make real sense and it’s seems like the kind of thing that could have been intended all along but also could have just kind of happened to work out that way.
I was kind of sorry to see this series end, but as it turns out there’s at least one more novel set in the same world, though not with the same characters. I might have to look that one up.